01 Jul Dark Chocolate: The Health Benefits
A lot of us enjoy a piece of chocolate from time to time, due to its rich, creamy, and sweet taste. Although it is mainly associated with weight gain and acne, if eaten in moderation chocolate carries several health benefits. Especially dark chocolate.
The more cocoa content chocolate has, the more benefits, making dark chocolate nutritionally more beneficial than milk and white chocolate. As well as having a higher cocoa content, it is also rich in minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium1. Dark chocolate is also believed to contain high levels of antioxidants (flavanols and polyphenols). These antioxidants may decrease the threat of different diseases, including various cancers and heart disease2.
Below lists other ways that dark chocolate can positively impact your health.
Skin Protection in the Sun3,4,5
Flavanols can protect your skin against damage from the sun. However, these flavanol levels need to be high.
Chocolate processing techniques can reduce flavanol levels. Chocolate processed with alkali (called dutching) contains less flavanols. As well as improving blood flow to the skin flavanols also increase its hydration.
It’s still essential to use a sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin when exposing yourself to the sun.
Flavanols are thought to widen blood vessels. This improves blood flow within the body, hence decreasing blood pressure. This effect is mild, a drop of 2-3 mmHg. However, if coupled with other activities such as exercise it could have a positive effect on your health.
Dark chocolate in moderation may help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which to you and me is the ‘bad’ cholesterol. High LDL levels can cause serious complications to the arteries by clogging them up and increasing the risk of heart disease. At the same time, cocoa powder can increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, which is the ‘good’ cholesterol.
Researchers have found that regular cocoa consumption improves the brain’s overall health, as well as improving cognition in older people.
Although there are some health benefits to dark chocolate, it is important that you only consume it in moderation. Along with a healthy and balanced diet a couple of squares on the odd day will not hurt. However, your dark chocolate must be high in flavanols to enjoy its potential benefits!
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- Eske, J. (2019) ‘What are the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate?’ Medical News Today, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324747>
- Better Health Channel (2020) ‘Antioxidants’ Better Health Channel, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants#:~:text=A%20diet%20high%20in%20antioxidants,be%20studied%20around%20the%20world>
- Gunnars, K. (2018) ‘7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate’ Healthline, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate>
- Williams, S. et al (2009) ‘Eating Chocolate Can Significantly Protect the Skin from UV Light’ Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 8 (3): 169-173
- Kallmyer, T. (2020) ‘Dark Chocolate: The Best and Worst Brands’ Healthyeater, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://healthyeater.com/dark-chocolate-best-and-worst>
- NHS (2012) ‘Can Dark Chocolate Help Control Blood Pressure?’ NHS, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/can-dark-chocolate-help-control-blood-pressure/>
- Nordqvist, J (2018) ‘Health Benefits and Risks of Chocolate’ Medical News Today, viewed 29 June 2020 <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270272>
- Sorond, F. et al (2013) ‘Neurovascular Coupling, Cerebral White Matter Integrity, and Response to Cocoa in Older People’ Neurology 81 (10): 904-909